My journey with Smile Train began as a postgraduate medical student in Mangalore at Smile Train’s first center in India, the A.B. Shetty Memorial Institute of Dental Sciences in 2002 where Dr Krishnashyama Rao and Dr Krishnamurthy Bonanthaya were my professors. Thereafter, I started my Smile Train Cleft Fellowship at Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital in Bangalore in 2006 which cemented my passion for cleft care.
After completing my fellowship, I came back to Indore with the sole aim of starting a Smile Train center in my hometown. My biggest priority was to start a cleft care center in a place where patient safety was paramount, and full-time healthcare staff was available 24/7. I was fortunate to find all these elements in CHL Hospitals - a quality tertiary care facility, and with Smile Train’s support, I successfully set up a comprehensive cleft care center at CHL Hospitals in December 2006.
In the last two decades years of my association with Smile Train, I’ve attended several workshops, conferences and webinars aimed at capacity building of cleft surgeons. I can confidently say that Smile Train places the utmost priority on partner surgeons staying ahead of the curve. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, Smile Train kept this process of learning alive through webinars.
My biggest motivation to achieve new heights in cleft care comes from the fact that my job allows me to practice my passion and give back to society at the same time. The nature of my profession is bringing smiles to little children, and for me, there could be no bigger humanitarian cause worth supporting than this one.
The best part about my journey with Smile Train has been experiencing fulfilling and heartwarming moments that leave their mark on you forever. Two stories are particularly close to my heart. The first one is Kabir’s story. He was 6 months old when he was referred to me by some orphanage workers who had found him abandoned near a temple. The orphanage authorities informed me that despite their best efforts, no one was ready to adopt him because of his cleft. However, within two months of a successful cleft surgery, Kabir was adopted! He is about 5 years old now, and I’m so happy to see that he’s got a family that loves him.
Another touching story is about little Ravindra, a baby born with a cleft who was so severely malnourished that he was very close to losing his life. Milk leaked from his nose and mouth due to his cleft lip and palate, and his mother faced difficulties in feeding him. When he was brought to our cleft center, he was immediately put on nutritional support to bring him to a healthy weight before surgery. Now, Ravindra is a healthy, thriving child who owes his life to his new smile. Such is the transformation comprehensive cleft care can bring about!
As narrated by Dr Jaideep Singh Chauhan, Project Director and Consultant Maxillofacial, Cleft Lip & Palate Surgeon at CHL Hospitals, Indore - a Smile Train partner hospital which achieved the “smilestone” of 8500+ cleft surgeries recently. CHL Hospitals was the recipient of the Smile Train Global Leader award in 2015 & the documentary “Smile Train” made by Dr Chauhan received an ‘Award of Recognition’ in an international competition called ‘Impact DOCS Awards’ in San Diego. Watch it now!